My oldest daughter recently celebrated her 12th birthday, and Kathy asked me, “Aren’t you going to write a post about Rachel for her birthday?”
Talk about time flying. It seems only yesterday she was 11 …
One of our many traditions is that, on each child’s birthday, Kathy and I nostalgically reminisce about the actual day of that child’s birth. Rachel’s birth-day is memorable in terms of weather (a very cold Michigan day), in terms of inconvenient timing (born at 4:50 am during a snowstorm), in terms of worry for me (Kathy lost a lot of blood at her birth), and in terms of the joy of having a first daughter. The kids never seem to tire of hearing the story each year — of course, I try to liven it up with snide comments and family jokes.
As important as the birthday is, what happens after that seems much more significant, which is why it is no trouble at all for me to come up with a list about my beloved daughter:
Twelve things I love about Rachel …
- She has a quick wit, and a clever and quirky sense of humor
- She believes in Justice
- She is kind to David and Sarah
- She is generous
- She is a good friend
- She loves music
- She loves to serve at AWANA
- She has a soft spot in her heart for animals
- She is cheerful
- She knows her Bible
- She loves Jesus
- She asks hard questions and thinks deeply
Rachel loves to laugh, and has the rare sense of timing necessary to maximize the humor of a remark. Her wry but soft-spoken comments often have me straining to hear what she says, not wanting to miss out, even if I am the one being roasted. She often fires an amusing Parthian shot, just as she exits a room — leaving her victims ruefully shaking their heads in admiration of her verbal prowess.
If there is anyone who is most like me in my love for justice, it is Rachel. She carefully watches the ebb and flow of family relationships and is quick to point out any improper favoritism (or lack thereof), especially among her siblings. Holding unflinchingly to personal integrity, she knows the difference between fairness and justice and seeks to order her own conduct according to the highest standards.
Reading books tirelessly or playing with them, Rachel enjoys her youngest two siblings and cares for them graciously, sharing her time and toys unstintingly. In spite of Sarah’s tendency to use her sister’s things without permission, Rachel is patient and almost unfailingly kind to her little sister, even to the extent of giving her little jobs so she’ll feel useful. Last night, as I went to bed, I ran into Sarah, heading into the bathroom with a plastic cup. “Rachel makes me get her a glass of water every night,” she informed me cheerfully. “Yeah,” observed a gently sarcastic voice from the top bunk. “Every night she climbs up and begs me, asking if she can go get water for me; so sure enough, I ‘make‘ her do it.” Rachel has earned the trust and loyalty of her smallest siblings, and is storing up great treasure in heaven for herself through her consistent kindness to them.
Buying gifts for her siblings or sharing her stuffed animals, Rachel does not cling tightly to possessions over relationships. Last year when I bought some gifts for a missionary family of our acquaintance, I put them all on the table and allowed the children to ‘buy’ them from me, so that they could give the gifts in their own name. Rachel did not disappoint me, but dug deep into her bank to purchase a number of the gifts. She carefully tithes on her income, and (like her Mom) is open-handed with kind words and encouragement.
Rachel is a soft-hearted girl, and she doesn’t enjoy sarcasm that hurts, or comments that really put others down. She is also somewhat of a thoughtful and solitary girl, often preferring to be alone, yet she seems to thrive (like her mama), on good girl friends. One thing I know: when she has a good friend, she knows how to keep them. Rachel is loyal and true and sweet and fun, and almost always thinks of the needs of her friends ahead of her own.
Last summer I won an iPod Shuffle, and I immediately thought to give it to Rachel. Ever since she was a little girl, she has always been the first to learn the lyrics to a new song, and has spent many a happy hour singing along in the car or in her room. As she leads worship in the children’s program at church or listens to the Christian radio station, it is exciting to see how her love for music draws her along in her love for Jesus. She is a little more of a hard-rocker than others in our home, but not obnoxiously so; she pushes us to listen to new music and stretch our ears a bit.
This year Rachel was invited to serve as a helper in the Cubbies AWANA class, teaching three- and four-year-old children in our church’s Wednesday night program. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that my daughter would enjoy the prospect of trying out her spiritual giftedness (teaching? service? evangelism?) at church. So far, we hear nothing but good things from the adult teachers, who are already campaigning for Rachel to help them again next year, in spite of the temptation of the Middle School program.
Even before she could talk, Rachel clearly loved animals, especially kittens and cats. That deep, abiding love has continued, fueled perhaps by our staunch resistance to the idea of having a dog or cat as a pet. Rachel’s advocacy has been the reason for our adoption of both guinea pigs, in spite of the sorrowful demise of Martin, our family’s first pet. One day I was trying to reassure her: “When you grow up, you can have a cat of your own, or even more than one!” Rachel countered with her own assessment. “It is true that I love animals now, but what if I grow up and don’t care about them the same way any more? I should have a pet now, just in case.” It is hard to argue with such logic.
When we named her, we chose ‘Joy’ as Rachel’s middle name, in contravention of our intent to use middle names to honor family members. At the time, we were focused on our joy, but Rachel has made that name her own, in the cheerful and joyful way she relates to our family. She truly takes after her mother in that, for which I (and her future husband, should the Lord bless her in that way) are very grateful.
Throughout the years, Rachel has paid careful attention to her Bible lessons at home and at church, and understands her Bible remarkably well, for a person her age. Her ability to interpret the scriptures and her knowledge of God’s character are the envy of many of her instructors. It is a delight to my soul to hear her explaining spiritual truths to her younger brothers.
As the apostle says in 3 John 1:4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Throughout her life, it has given us great joy to know that Rachel gave her heart to Jesus at an early age. Like every other Believer, she struggles with the invisible nature of God, and she recently confided to me, “Sometimes I don’t feel very close to Jesus.” But she prays and she reads her Bible and she walks in righteousness, growing in grace and in favor with God.
Of all the children, Rachel has always been the one to ask ‘thorny’ questions. I remember picking blackberries when she was three, and how she got a thorn in her finger even after she prayed that she would be protected from the prickers. “Why does God let bad things happen, Daddy?” she asked. Just tonight, she engaged Kathy in a long discussion about why people take drugs. “Did you ever take drugs, Mom?” Rachel is never afraid of being too direct. Joshua loves using Rachel to ask the questions, when he is curious but too reserved to ask.
The other day, Kathy was shopping with her two girls, and the checkout cashier commented on their resemblance to my wife: “You have Two Mini Me’s there,” she laughed. Not to in any way minimize her uniqueness as a person, but I think one of the nicest things I can say about my daughter is that she reminds me of my beloved wife.
Not a bad start to your life, sweet Rachel.
I love you!